Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Reformation. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 1. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Ch. 17, “The Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicea” Loc. 3337-3541
Theological controversies were nothing new in the Church. However, after Constantine’s reforms it became “possible to invoke the authority of the state to settle a theological question” (Gonzalez 2010, Loc. 3344). Because Constantine desired unity and hoped that Christianity would unify the empire, “the state soon began to use its power to force theological agreement upon Christians (Ibid., Loc. 3344). Therefore, influencing the emperor became a way to overcome theological opponents. The Arian controversy arose in Alexandria, where the presbyter Arius had a clash with Alexander, bishop of Alexandria. “Arius argued that the Word was not coeternal with the Father (Ibid., Loc. 3385). Therefore, the divinity of God the Son, the Word of God, was thrown into question. The full divinity of Christ was affirmed by Alexander and those who held to his views. Arius and his followers questioned whether the one who was actually divine could have the similarity to mankind necessary to purchase salvation through his obedience (Ibid., Loc. 3406). The controversy led to Arius’ removal from all church offices and subsequent demonstrations in Alexandria (Ibid., Loc. 3414). As a result to this controversy, Constantine ordered an assembly of bishops to resolve this matter and some other matters of church governance in a council at Nicea in 325. Most of the approximately 300 participants were from the East, though there was also representation from the West (Ibid., Loc. 3426). The presentation of the Arian point of view by Eusebius of Nicomedia (not to be confused with Eusebius of Caesarea) inflamed the assembly. “The assertion that the Word or Son was no more than a creature, no matter how high a creature, provoked angry reactions from many of the bishops. . . we are told that the pages of his written speech were snatched from his hand, torn to shreds, and trampled underfoot” (Ibid., Loc. 3464). Arianism was rejected explicitly by adoption of a creed, which makes up much of what we now know as the Nicene Creed (Ibid., Loc. 3487). The key to the argument “that the Son is just as divine as the Father” is the word homoousios, indicating that the substance of the Father and the Son is exactly the same (Ibid., Loc. 3507). The bishops who did not sign the creed were removed from their ecclesiastical office. Constantine added a civil penalty of banishment, which “established a precedent for the intervention of secular authority on behalf of what was considered orthodox doctrine” (Ibid., Loc. 3514).